Season three of The Walking Dead‘s been all about faith: faith in one self, faith in the people around you, faith in a leader with a tenuous grasp on his sanity. ‘The Suicide King’ is an episode that explores this with just about every character, coming to a lot of disturbing conclusions when it looks into the eyes of its characters.
The biggest of this is Rick, of course – the end of ‘The Suicide King’ throws a big wrench into his claim of leadership. With all the shit he’s dealt with, Rick can’t trust anybody anymore – he questions the decisions and motivations of everyone, even Herschel and his own son (“you brought them in here?” he asks after finding out Carl and Herschel helped Tyreese and crew get in the prison). But that’s to be expected in the world of The Walking Dead – what isn’t expected is someone not having faith in their own mental abilities. And it’s not him clutching to a phone, alone in a room: he breaks down in front of the entire group after seeing a vision of Lori in a white dress watching from above him. She’s haunting him, and it’s affecting every facet of his decision making process. He’s on fragile, fragile ground mentally – and there’s no telling what might happen if he snaps.
The Governor’s in a similar position: angered at the assault on his people (which left seven of them dead), he’s no longer in the mood for short ribs and fireworks. Like Rick, he’s driven by the anger of a lost one – while he postures around, pissing and moaning about how they attacked his people, we know why he’s really mad: they came after him, taking out an eyeball and his beloved zombie daughter in the process. The Governor’s a few steps past Rick’s mental instability, and like the people at the prison, the constituents of Woodbury are starting to question the man they call their leader.
They aren’t the only characters in rough shape emotionally – Beth’s clung onto this vision of herself as Rick’s wife and Lil’ Asskicker’s mother, keeping the baby close to her and dropping a suggestive kiss on Rick’s cheek. Her intentions – however disturbed they may be to play out – are a lot more copacetic than some of the others: both Michonne and Glenn are fuming at failing to take out The Governor, both on the edge of possibly making some brash, life-threatening mistakes out of anger (Glenn stomping through the skull of a zombie was not a pretty sight).
After an explosive opening, ‘The Suicide King’ pulls its focus back a bit, having conversation after conversation with characters trying to determine how much stock to put in the people around them. Andrea’s a little unsure about The Governor (since seeing him with a fucking zombie head collection didn’t raise her eyebrow enough), and in return, The Governor’s wondering how much of a threat to his power she might be (although considering his dominating, slightly rapey nature, I’d say it’s not a major concern). And of course, there’s Daryl and Merle, who disappear off into the distance together, an uneasy reunion that reminds us if there’s one thing that inspires trust in this world, it’s family (something reiterated in a conversation at the prison).
‘The Suicide King’ isn’t a particularly compelling episode, but it continues the trend of less zombie crap, and more interpersonal drama, which is the show’s best material. Dead is at its best deconstructing the modern mind of humans and short circuiting them with a brutal, stress-riddled world where lives are always at stake, either from the zombies right in front of your face, or the unstable, unpredictable humans lurking around the corner.
– An interview with Glen Mazzarra (I wish I could remember where to link it here) where he talks about an episode (that he calls “different”) dedicated to Rick’s sanity. Looking forward to that.
– Daryl’s face when he’s asked “what will we tell Carol?” is great… it says “uhh… who the fuck cares?”
– Merle calls Michonne a “Nubian queen”. Racism in its least subtle form.
– at this point in time, who really cares about a proper burial?
– I’m a little confused why Glenn and Maggie aren’t talking…. he’s mad at her for almost getting raped?